CONSTRUCTION workers’ health has been put at risk by building firms after a number of shocking shortcomings were uncovered at sites across Britain, a union has said.
Britain’s health and safety watchdog revealed that a series of unannounced inspections had uncovered failings at scores of locations.
The Health and Safety Executive took action at one-in-six of the 560 sites it visited during an intensive two-week period.
The news prompted one union to lambast the “appalling” state of the industry, which employs large numbers of Irish people in Britain.
Conditions were so poor in some instances that inspectors had to stop construction work immediately on 13 occasions.
“Workers are constantly being exposed to health risks on construction sites,” said Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union UCATT.
“The long-term damage that workers are being exposed to is a time bomb for their health.”
He added: “These results show that employers simply don’t care about the long-term health of construction workers. Employers putting workers health at risk should be prosecuted. There is simply no excuse as basic safety measures can massively reduce the dangers workers face.”
Construction firms have previously defended the industry’s record on health and safety by pointing to the steadily declining rate of fatalities and injuries on sites.
But unions claim that employers’ health and safety shortcomings are to blame for vast numbers of early retirements.
The HSE’s national investigation found significant shortcomings in the day-to-day management of health risks at the 85 sites that failed their inspection and were served with enforcement notices.
The risks identified included respiratory risks from dusts containing silica materials, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration.
A total of 239 health-related Notices of Contravention were served at 201 of the sites, while 107 Improvement Notices were issued.
Heather Bryant, HSE’s Chief Inspector, said the watchdog recognised the industry’s progress in reducing the number of work-related injuries and deaths.
“But it is clear from these figures that there is an unacceptable toll of ill-health and fatal disease in the industry,” she added.